The News Nuggets
The Breaking News
Ted Hall was a physics prodigy so gifted that he was asked to join the Manhattan Project when he was only eighteen years old. There, in wartime Los Alamos, working under Robert Oppenheimer and Bruno Rossi, Hall helped create the atomic bomb. To his friends and coworkers, he was a brilliant young rebel with a boundless future in atomic science. To his Soviet spymasters, he was something else: "Mlad", their secret mole within Los Alamos, the man who first slipped them the secrets of making the atomic bomb.
In a book that will force the revision of fifty years of scholarship and reporting on the Cold War, the authors reveal for the first time a devastatingly effective Soviet spy network that infiltrated the Manhattan Project and ferried America's top atomic secrets to Stalin. At the heart of the network was Hall, who was so secret an operative that even Klaus Fuchs, his fellow Manhattan Project scientist and Soviet agent, has no idea they were comrades.
BOMBSHELL tracks Hall from his days as a gifted schoolboy in New York, when he came under the influence of his older brother's radical tracts, and on to Harvard, Los Alamos and Chicago, where Hall continued to spy even after the war was over, passing more secrets while the Soviets were trying to build the Hydrogen Bomb. We meet Hall's partners in espionage: Harvard roommate, Saville Sax, who received messages from Hall in a code based on Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass"; Morris and Lona Cohen, New York Communists who formed the core of the atomic espionage conspiracy; Yuri Sokolov, officially the Soviet Union's UN Mission press chief, unofficially a courier and spy for Moscow Centre; Colonel Rudolf Abel, to his friends an aspiring artist, to his agents, their "illegal" controller; and Anta and Aden, two yet unidentified American atomic scientists brought into the Soviet network by Hall. BOMBSHELL also tells the story of the U.S. Army codebreakers and FBI sleuths who, in thrilling game of cat-and-mouse, race to catch the unknown spy before it is too late.
The News Nuggets
Here are some of the most provocative disclosures:
-- How Hall and his late co-conspirator, former Harvard roommate, Saville Sax, devised a secret code based on Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" that enabled them to fix clandestine meetings after Hall returned to New Mexico. They perfected the code during Hall's New York furlough, probably while rowing in Central Park.
-- How Sax journeyed to Albuquerque late in 1944 with a query from Soviet intelligence concealed in his shoe. He met Hall and returned to New York with a paper containing "formulas" -- formulas that gave the chief of the nascent Soviet nuclear program his first glimpse of the implosion secret well before the Russians received confirming details from the German physicist, Klaus Fuchs.
-- How Hall held a second clandestine meeting in Albuquerque in August, 1945, this time with a more illustrious member of the "Volunteers', the former Park Avenue governess-turned-secret-agent, Lona Cohen. Hall gave her a diagram and description of the implosion bomb that would turn out to match the description that Fuchs gave the Soviets, convincing a skeptical Moscow leadership they had the key to a new super weapon.
-- How Hall and Fuchs worked in the same classroom at Los Alamos -- neither knowing that the other was a spy. And how Hall's gift for theoretical physics led him to be chosen to assist Edward Teller in the early stages of American thermonuclear research.
-- How physicist, Joseph Rotblat, the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for his work in nuclear non-proliferation, was investigated and confronted by U.S. Army security as a suspected spy, but successfully refuted the allegations. Rotblat still believes the manpower and energy devoted to his case diverted security agents from finding the real spies at Los Alamos.
-- How the Russians came to Ted Hall in 1948 with a desperate appeal that he return to espionage at a time when Hall was studying under Teller and Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago. Hall's conviction that the world would be safer with the bomb in Russian hands made him say yes -- even though that meant forsaking activist politics and his now membership in the American Communist Party.
-- How Hall attracted two more American atomic scientists, codenamed "Anta" and "Aden", to join the "Volunteers" network in 1949 -- two Soviet informants who even now have never been uncovered.
-- How the legendary Soviet "illegal" officer, Colonel Rudolf Abel, met Hall in a New York City Park in 1949 to assuage Hall's doubts about remaining in espionage. Abel succeeded -- but not for long. After the Soviets successfully tested their own nuclear bomb, Hall decided he had done enough to balance the world and withdrew from spying.
-- How seven years of "brilliant plodding" by U.S. Army codebreakers brought Hall to the attention of the FBI in 1949, but agents could not make a prosecutable case against him.
-- How Ted Hall decided in the early 1950's to resume contacts with a Soviet agent with the pseudonym "Jimmy Stevens" because he feared he and his family would have to be exfiltrated from the United States to avoid federal prosecution. They arranged their meetings by making marks on a certain placard in a New York subway station.
-- How in 1952 or 1953 Ted Hall told his Russian controller that he felt he must turn himself in to the FBI in order to spare Julius and Ethel Rosenberg -- and how the Russians convinced him not to do it.
The Breaking News
AM-Atomic Spy, 1st Ld
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A retired American physicist long suspected of having spied for the Soviet Union in the 1940s has spoken out for the first time on his role in apparently helping the Soviets break an American monopoly on atomic weapons.
In two written statements to the authors of a new book on his case, Theodore A. Hall explained his motive and intentions in contacting a Soviet agent in 1944 when he was a 19-year-old physicist at the Los Alamos, N.M., laboratory where scientists were secretly developing the world's first atomic bombs.
(Downloaded documents in .ZIP format must be
decompressed using a "zip-type" utility.
"Asked Monday whether the Justice Department was considering any action in the Hall case, spokesman John Russell said, 'There is nothing imminent on this. Beyond that, we have no comment.' " (Associated Press, 9/15/97)